As noted in yesterday’s post, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last Friday for one hour and walked away with a serious credibility problem. Friday’s hearing focused on two issues – the Laith Marouf/CMAC issue of government funding for an anti-semite and Bill C-18 – and Rodriguez faced credibility questions on both. While yesterday’s post focused on his responses to questions about Canadian Heritage funding for CMAC/Marouf, today’s addresses his misleading statements on the bill.
I’ve written extensively about some of the problems with Bill C-18. These include process concerns involving blocking dozens of witnesses from appearing before committee, benefit concerns based on Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that the big winners are Bell, Rogers and the CBC, as well as substantive concerns that include the risks to the free flow of information online, risks of increased misinformation, and government intervention in an area that could undermine an independent press. But Rodriguez’s appearance last week raised new concerns about the government using misleading data and apparently having given little thought or study to the full implications of the bill.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on Friday for one hour and walked away with a serious credibility problem. Rodriguez has already been repeatedly contradicted on Bill C-11, claiming that the bill doesn’t cover user content or algorithms. On both issues, the CRTC Chair (and virtually every expert) say otherwise. Friday’s hearing focused on two issues – the Laith Marouf/CMAC issue of government funding for an anti-semite and Bill C-18, the Online News Act. Given his responses to MP questions, Rodriguez now faces credibility questions on both. This post will focus on his responses to questions about Canadian Heritage funding for CMAC/Marouf and a second post tomorrow will examine his misleading statements on the bill.
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Canadians using the Access to Information Act system frequently find that it is simply does not work as the legislation prescribes, with most facing long delays and widespread redactions. Canada’s Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard is trying to do something to fix that. She has been calling for legislative reforms, more resources, and leadership within government departments to prioritize providing information instead of hiding it. Commissioner Maynard joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the current system, how exceptions are often used too aggressively to limit public access, and what can be done to fix these problems.
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Earlier this year, the government deployed disturbing anti-democratic tactics by repeatedly cutting off debate on Bill C-11 in both the House of Commons and during clause-by-clause review of the bill. As a result, MPs rushed to vote on over 150 amendments, most without public disclosure of what was even being voted on. That approach rightly sparked anger and has even led supporters of Bill C-11 to ask the Senate to remedy unexpected amendments that were not subject to any public debate. As bad as that was, later today the government will arguably engage in an even more problematic tactic, as it moves to block dozens of potential witnesses from presenting their views on the Online News Act (Bill C-18).
Minutes after Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez answers committee questions on the bill for the very first time this afternoon, the government – backed by the NDP – is expected to shut down further witnesses at the Bill C-18 hearings and move directly to clause-by-clause review. As a result, dozens of stakeholders and experts will be blocked from giving testimony to the Heritage committee. For a government that once prided itself on consultation, the decision to block further committee testimony is a remarkable abdication of the principles of a consultative, inclusive approach to legislative development.
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